“Sere from the Green” Chapter Five Commentary

WARNING!  THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!

This post will make much more sense if you’ve already read the novel.  Seriously, if you’re just reading the commentary, I don’t get it.  Help out a little indie author and pick up a copy of her book (or books).  You can find them on Amazon, CreateSpace, Smashwords, or my personal online store.

Sere from the Green [front cover]My cover art changed significantly from the first novel to all the subsequent covers.  This is because I made the mistake of going on a writing message board, introducing myself, and asking if anyone had any marketing advice.  Don’t do that.  Not unless you want to be torn to shreds.  I had so many people tell me that if I was too poor to hire a proper cover artist (I got this cover on a free cover creator because my funds were non-existent), I really shouldn’t be writing (or at least not publishing).  Because no one would ever buy a book with such a generic cover.  And that was the more pleasant kind of message.  I was so upset by this experience that my younger brother said, “Well fuck those people.  I just design your covers.”

I still actually like that cover, even though I do prefer my brother’s covers.  There’s something about woodland scenes that have always appealed to me.  Also, the whole green motif is great because this book was published on St. Patrick’s Day.  I only sign it in green ink, because I really love themes.

Speaking of, we should get to the commentary, don’t you think?

Page 59

I admit, I’m a huge fan of the work of Dario Argento and have been known to drag people to see his films with me.  Fans of giallo will recognize the name and title.  “Suspira” is probably Argento’s best known film and it’s one of the most bizarre films I’ve ever seen.  It’s a movie you don’t watch for plotting or characters.  You watch it for the gorgeous images and colors (be warned:  it’s an extremely violent movie.  Eli Roth put it best when he said “Argento puts the gore in gorgeous”).  I watched the film again while rewriting this novel, so it was fresh in my mind.  I recently received an email from a reader who really loved this reference, which made me so happy 🙂

Page 60

Isis is having the week from hell.  Nothing is going right and it’s about to get even worse.

I’m hoping this doesn’t sound pompous and/or twisted:  I really like the way the attack in chapter five came out.  It demonstrates how ruthless and efficient the villains are.  It was important to establish early on that the danger posed to the protectors is very real.  Isis is in real trouble right now.

The first draft of this scene had Jade and Electra find the aftermath of this attack with Isis near death.  I had to change this for a number of reasons.  It never read smoothly (and it always seemed rather gratuitous).  Also, in the very first draft, Electra had some healing abilities.  I decided against this because I changed something in the Meadows history, which actually benefited the series and offered some interesting plot possibilities.  It also solved a couple problems I ran into later in this story.

Some of the best horror stories have to do with an invasion into a safe space.  There’s something about being attacked within our home that’s very unsettling.  Isis has locked all the doors, but someone has still gotten into her home.

Page 61 – 62

The first reading I ever did, I read the elevator scene.  I like the chemistry between Jade and Electra in this scene.  These two don’t often share scenes together.  Electra’s obviously still pissed while Jade is focused on the job.  It was important to me that Jade didn’t dismiss Electra’s anger or try to dissuade her from being mad.  She understands why Electra’s feeling that and she’s not going to pretend it’s unreasonable or unjustified.  Too often people try to fix emotions instead of trying to understand and accepted the person.

I wanted the main villain to be able to exert some kind of control over whatever place he occupied (temperatures drop, unnatural silences, etc.).  As his power grows, his followers become proxies and these disturbances are felt when they’re nearby.

Guardians don’t make or wield firearms.  They tend to avoid tools used solely for destruction.  Electra hasn’t been on Earth very much and is a little sheltered.  Then again, I think almost anyone would be unsettled by a gun.

Another thing I love about this scene:  Jade kicks in a door.  She’s not even going to attempt to pick the lock.  That fucking door is getting kicked in.

Jade is an experienced protector (she’s the oldest of the Four) and hasn’t met many opponents who could best her in hand-to-hand combat.  She obviously puts up more of a fight than Isis was able to, but still gets tossed around.  The assailant is never revealed because I wanted the reader to be as in the dark as the characters.  I know who it was, but I’ll never tell.  I think there are some mysteries readers would prefer to figure out on their own.

In every single draft, the first meeting between Isis and Electra involved Isis kicking Electra.  I have no idea why, probably just Isis’ uncanny ability to get on people’s bad sides.  It’s amusing me right now because Electra is already in a sour mood.  She’s so indignant about getting kicked for the rest of the chapter.

Page 63 – 64

There had to be a sense of urgency to this scene.  Isis just narrowly escaped being killed, but she’s also running from the two people who can help her.  Obviously she doesn’t know this.  She’s taking the stairs because who the hell is going to wait for an elevator.  Wow, I just had a bit of an unnerving thought:  how spooky would it be to meet your identical twin who you never knew existed?

Shout out to Katie Yankula from The Snow Leopard Trust.  When I was revising this novel, I had no idea how tall a snow leopard would stand on its hind legs.  No matter where I looked, I couldn’t find an answer.  I stumbled across the site for The Snow Leopard Trust and sent them an email.  Ms. Yankula was kind enough to respond (snow leopards stand roughly 50 – 62 inches on their hind legs).  It was apparently the first time she had ever been asked that question.  So thank you Ms. Yankula!  You’re awesome 🙂

I was recently listening to a “Leverage” commentary where John Rogers mentioned that if writers don’t know something, they should contact someone who works in a particular field or someone who would have that knowledge.  This is brilliant advice for writers.  If you don’t know something, find someone who does.  It never hurts to ask.

I’ll be honest:  I wanted Jade to shift into a snow leopard.  I’ve always loved snow leopards (they’re so gorgeous).  When the opportunity presented itself, I didn’t hesitate.

Poor Isis is once again confronted with something that should be impossible.  I tried to think about how I would react to a shape shifter.  I came to the conclusion that I would say “fuck” a lot.

I find that I like a lot of the small moments in this first novel.  Jade reaching out to Isis and then pulling back when Isis jerks away is a nice demonstration of respect.  I was actually surprised by how much I liked this interaction between Jade and Isis.  When I first started a character profile of Jade, I made a note that she had to act as a handler in the past.  She has dealt with sources and assets fairly regularly.  Jade knows how to handle skittish or scared people.  She winds up appealing to Isis’ curiosity, which is rather clever on her part.

Page 65 – 66

Page 66, also known as, “fuck this page!”  (It seriously might be one of the worst things I’ve ever written).

The conversation between Jade, Electra, and Isis:  there are some parts I think are all right and others that I find just dreadful.  I haven’t cringed so much in quite some time.  This is a scene that could have used a few more rewrites.

I like that Isis thinks Jade and Electra are covert operatives, which seems like a conclusion she’d leap to.  Isis has some conflict in her background, which has made her extremely wary of groups, including religions.  She often demonstrates distorted thinking, seeing things as black and white.  Bad experiences have definitely colored her opinions and it can be why she sometimes seems very judgmental.

“Can I turn into a snow leopard?” 😀

Writing the interactions between Isis and Electra proved to be some of the hardest to write.  I’m an adoptee and I have an older half-sister out there somewhere, though all I know about her is that she’s a few years older than me.  I’ve never had a desire to find any biological relations, but I have sometimes wondered about that half-sister.  When writing Isis and Electra, I tried to picture what I would do in a similar situation.  These two women are complete strangers who look exactly alike.  Isis is kind of done at this moment (she’s already experienced so much weird shit throughout the week, this is just kind of one more thing).

Some readers will catch the wereanimal reference (which will be discussed more in book three).  Isis has kind of just unintentionally insulted Jade.  I always knew I would include assorted wereanimals eventually, but when I wrote “Sere,” I hadn’t decided exactly when.  Though I have the series plotted out, there are a few big moments/reveals that I still have yet to place.

Jade drives strangely.  I avoid driving scenes as much as possible.  I don’t drive and it really shows.  The one drawback of modern/urban fantasy:  fucking cars.

Jade is very bitter when it comes to the topic of religion (which has to do with her experience with conquistadors).  Unfortunately, this is another part of the novel that doesn’t read the way I’d like it to.

Fucking god dammit, I just noticed a plot inconsistency (people never worshiped guardians, they mistook them for deities occasionally).  There are a couple hiccups in this novel and every one of them drives me up the freaking wall.

In my mind, I had this idea that myths of shape shifters came from humans meeting and interacting with shape shifters.  At one point, I considered there having been a time when humans actually knew about shape shifters (which is where the myths and legends came from).  I might return to this idea eventually.  This plot has kind of evolved as I gained more experience.  The basics remain unchanged more or less, but I hope I’ve gotten better at execution.

Page 66 is the worst fucking page in this book.  I’m one of those writers that can only see her fuck ups.  I guess that’s better than being an egomaniac.

Page 67 – 69

Thankfully, the conversation gets back on track on the next page.  What the hell happened with page 66?  It’s like I completely forgot every single writer’s tool.

Jade tries to subtly take a longer route so the two other women can have more time to talk, but Electra catches her right away.  She has a “what the hell” moment.

I wrote it so Jade likes Isis right off the bat.  Jade is very professional by nature, but she really wants to befriend Isis.

As I mentioned earlier, Electra hasn’t been to Earth very often.  Guardians tend to have very sheltered lives (the word “cloistered” comes to mind).  A lot of Earth references will go right over Electra’s head.

Isis comparing Roan and Passion to Romeo and Juliet:  I fully admit that line is there partly because it made me laugh.  Every damn time I read it, I chuckle.  I don’t know why I find it so funny.  I hope a few readers who have already read the other books also find it entertaining.

Electra completely fails to use tact when revealing Roan’s background and reputation.  Jade’s annoyance stems in part from her not wanting Isis to bolt.  Right now, Jade’s assignment is to bring Isis safely back to the mansion and prevent her from panicking.  There has already been one attempt on Isis’ life and Jade is in protector mode.

Passion’s sentence was much more severe than just giving up a daughter (as readers later find out).  The High Council of Guardians can be rather severe when it comes to sentencing.  They don’t torture and they don’t have the death penalty, but some of their punishments can be considered worse than death.

I always wrote Isis as being more interested in the vanishing body than her genetic heritage.  The only reason she asks about her biological background is because she thinks Jade and Electra expect her to.  You have to remember the situation Isis is currently in.  She’s in a car with strangers.  Someone just tried to kill her and she has no idea why.  She’s in survival mode right now.  Interestingly, as I wrote this scene, I pictured Jade as being fully aware of this but pretending not to be (she wants to see what Isis will do).

Jet being tasked with bringing Isis to an adoption agency wasn’t a great moment in his life and he still has a certain amount of anger towards the High Council for it (and for how they punished Passion).

Page 70

Isis is in a strange place and she’s thinking about how much she wants her baton.  It cannot be emphasized enough:  Isis is a fighter.

Jet and Isis’ first meeting:  I enjoy writing scenes where some characters have information that others don’t, though it’s a skill I’m still working on.  One of the things I struggle with most in writing is remembering that the reader doesn’t have the same information I do.  It’s up to me to reveal it.

Page 71 – 73

Jet is way too trusting of Isis.  He looks at her and sees a protector, forgetting that she has been raised by humans and doesn’t know him.  Luckily for Jet, Jade doesn’t forget this.

I loved writing the interaction between Lilly and Isis.  Lilly is very perceptive and good at reading people.  She knows Isis is stressed out about her new surroundings and does her best to put her mind at ease.  The dialogue gets a little to sappy (almost maudlin) in parts, but I think overall, the exchange is nice.

A little more of shape shifter culture is revealed as Lilly shows Isis to her room.  There was so much information I wanted to get across and I struggled not to write massive paragraphs of exposition.  The guardian materials will be important later in the series.

I think it was the third or fourth rewrite when I decided to end this chapter with Isis planning her escape.  Isis is a woman who is determined to never be trapped or held against her will.  As I was trying to get into her mind, I figured that she wouldn’t have a solid plan.  Isis is the sort who figures things out as she goes along.  Right now, her objective is to get out of the mansion and off the grounds.

Thus ends chapter five commentary.  Whew, that one was a doozy.  I had a whole rant planned to start out with, but I think I’ll save that for a bit later.  As always, I hope readers are enjoying these commentaries and I’m not coming off as having my head completely up my ass. 

Questions and comments welcome.  Spammers are not. 

Until next time, beloved reader.

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About Lauren Jankowski

Lauren Jankowski, an author from Illinois, has been an avid reader and a genre feminist for most of her life. She holds a degree in Women and Genders Studies from Beloit College. In 2015, she founded “Asexual Artists,” a Tumblr and WordPress site dedicated to highlighting the contributions of asexual identifying individuals to the arts. She has been writing fiction since high school, when she noticed a lack of strong women in the popular genre books. When she’s not writing or researching, she enjoys reading (particularly anything relating to ancient myths) or playing with her pets. She participates in activism for asexual visibility and feminist causes. She enjoys speaking about genre feminism, a topic she is quite passionate about, and hopes to bring more strong heroines to literature, including badass asexual women. Her debut novel was "Sere from the Green," the first volume in her ongoing series "The Shape Shifter Chronicles." The sequels, "Through Storm and Night," "From the Ashes," and "Haunted by the Keres" are also available. All books can be purchased through Amazon, CreateSpace, or Smashwords.
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